Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 17, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

ASIMOV'S ROBOTS....You know, I might have taken Chris Suellentrop's article about I, Robot more seriously except for this phrase, which opened the third paragraph:

Asimov's novel I, Robot....

Actually, it's a collection of loosely connected short stories, not a novel, a mistake that doesn't inspire much confidence in the rest of what Suellentrop has to say about Asimov's elevation of reason over feeling and the betrayal of that ethos in the movie.

As it happens, in Asimov's real novels about robots as opposed to his short stories emotion and prejudice play a leading role. In The Caves of Steel, for example, Asimov displays a fair dollop of sympathy, if not approval, about human suspicion of robots, and in all his robot novels the humans inevitably provide a spark of intuition and emotion that proves crucial to the resolution. What's more, by the end of the robot cycle, after the robot novels have merged with the Foundation novels, there's even a sense that Asimov is beginning to understand the perils of robotic reason taken to extremes.

So while Suellentrop's dichotomy robotic reason good, human feeling bad may be the conventional wisdom about Asimov's view of the world, I don't think it's quite as cut and dried as he makes it out to be. None of which is to say that the movie I, Robot isn't a travesty of Asimov's robot writing, of course. It probably is, at least based on the ads I've seen. I mean, hordes of killer robots? Please.

And one more thing: any article that talks about bad Asimov movie adaptations and doesn't mention Nightfall is clearly missing a bet. That was a bad movie....

Kevin Drum 8:04 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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